Classic Cars: History on Wheels

Mucha gente se siente fascinada por los coches antiguos, especialmente por los modelos deportivos de hace unas décadas. Chequered Flag International es un concesionario de coches clásicos en Los Ángeles que vende Porsches, Corvettes... y hasta Escarabajos.

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Molly Malcolm

Speaker (American accent)

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A classic car isn’t just a mode of transportation, it’s a piece of history, something that connects us emotionally as well as physically to a time in the past. So says Neil Jaffe, the president of a California-based classic car dealership called Chequered Flag International. Jaffe defines a classic car as “a car that is emblematic of an era” whether it’s a Volkswagen Beetle or a Volkswagen bus, a Porsche 911, a Ford Mustang, or any one of the Corvettes from the different eras. They’re all iconic cars that are reflective of a time period.

VINTAGE VS. CLASSIC

Established in 1986 in the beautiful resort area of Marina Del Rey in Los Angeles County, Chequered Flag sources exotic, sports, muscle and other types of classic cars from sellers in the US and sells them to clients in the US, Europe and other parts of the world. It normally has around a hundred cars in its showroom, including air-cooled Porsches, shiny red Ferraris and vintage VW buses emblematic of the 1960s’ counterculture. Speak Up met with Jaffe. We began by asking him what exactly a classic car was.

Neil Jaffe (British accent): I’m not sure! Vintage is… Is it fifty years old? The funny thing is they have what’s called young-timer classics now. A lot of cars from the 90s are becoming very desirable.

GERMAN INTEREST

And while they also sell new cars, it is the classics that attract most customers, says Jaffe. 

Neil Jaffe: We also do modern cars. But mainly, 90 per cent of our business is classic cars, and not by choice, just by market forces, we have been an exporter of cars since pretty much 85, 86, and we’ve exported a lot of cars to Germany, mainly Porsches, but really everything European and a few American cars. And over the last tirty-three, thirty-four years, we’ve exported probably 13,000 or 14,000 cars. We’ll sell to pilots who fly here for free and look to supplement their income or have a passion for classic cars, and a lot of people, collectors, who are looking for specific cars find them with us.

HOMECOMING

So why would a German buy a European car from the US? Jaffe explains.

Neil Jaffe: For a long time, there was a good currency exchange. The euro was relatively strong against the dollar. Americans weren’t too hip to prices so they were still quite affordable here. And it was a good gene pool of these cars because California’s where most of the Porsches and the Ferraris and the exotic cars made in Europe were destined when they were new. And of course we have such a kind climate and not a lot of opportunity to drive exceedingly fast on relatively good roads, and good weather has kept them in really good overall condition. 


STAYING IN AMERICA

Recently, higher prices have meant that he sells more classic cars nationally, says Jaffe.

Neil Jaffe: The euro has lost a lot of its buying power and, because of the scarcity, the prices have gone up quite a bit here. So, almost on the same day, the demand slowed from Europe and kicked in from the rest of America. So instead of shipping thirty to forty cars a month to Europe, I’m now sending twenty or thirty cars a month on trucks around America. We do have some local business; in LA, there’s still a big focus on cars, but a lot of our cars we ship around the country.

CRAZY PRICES

We then asked Jaffe about the most expensive car he’d sold.

Neil Jaffe: I sold a LaFerrari a couple of years ago for I think $3.4 million. That market doesn’t make much sense to me. I’ve sold a lot of cars that are around $1 million. We had something called a 599 Ferrari Aperta, which is like a regular 599 but the top section of the roof comes off. And they had a very limited production. I think they built eighty of them, and that car was $1.3 million. And some early Ferraris in early 2014-15 went through our hands when the market was very strong. It’s hard to see the value in some of these cars, but for the guys that have a huge amount of money, they want the rarest, the most unique, the most special, and they push the prices up because it’s a rarified atmosphere. 

HOLLYWOOD RENTALS

The company often rents cars for use in Hollywood films, and has sold cars formerly owned by famous people, including the actor Steve McQueen and the singer Sammy Davis Jr. Jaffe tells us more.

Neil Jaffe: Talking about movie cars, we rent a lot of cars to the movies. Occasionally, I get cars that have belonged to very well-known people or that have been in movies. Any car that Steve McQueen owned seems to make $1 million at least premium over one that he hadn’t owned, exactly the same car. It’s a nice part of it’s history and a good story, but it just doesn’t seem to change the car for me, but it’s a different perspective. I’m a car guy, I’m not a history guy. 

AN EMOTIONAL PURCHASE

And, says Jaffe, the real value of a car is what it means to its owner: 

Neil Jaffe: I love people who buy a car because they’re passionate about owning them, driving them, maybe even working on them, and they’re a part of their lives but in a good way. They enhance their lives, not they make them look like they’re doing better than they are or they want to show off to the neighbour.   

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